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The Open Championship: Player Focus - Martin Kaymer

By: Golf Shake | Thu 09 Jul 2015

Post by Sports Writer, Derek Clements

RORY McILROY rightly received all the plaudits for his form in 2014, making it all too easy to forget that the performance of 2014 was actually delivered by another European.

Martin Kaymer won the US PGA Championship in 2010. Not long afterwards, he also found himself at the top of the world rankings. Even the German would admit that he wasn't the best golfer on the planet at the time, but he had found a level of consistency that meant he contended almost time he competed.

Anybody who knows anything at all about golf will know that it is littered with former champions who either lost their game or came to the unfathomable decision that the swing with which they had won the greatest tournaments in the game was no longer good enough. If only they could improve it, how much better would they be?

Martin Kaymer proved his USPGA win was no fluke by cliaming the US Open in 2014

Martin Kaymer US Open

Remember Sandy Lyle? Ian Baker Finch? David Duval? Padraig Harrington? Perhaps they were all spurred on by what Nick Faldo did. But what they all seemed to overlook was that Faldo changed his swing because he knew that although it was good enough to win European Tour events and perhaps even the odd PGA tournament, it wouldn't stand up to scrutiny when the pressure was on in a major. So he went away, deconstructed what he had with the help of David Leadbetter and came back with a technique that won him six majors.

Kaymer decided after his PGA win that he could never win The Masters with his technique. To win at Augusta, he reasoned, you need to be able to move the ball from right to left at will. And he couldn't do that. Lee Trevino, who won the US Open, The Open and the PGA championship, quickly realised that he could never win at Augusta so he simply came to terms with the reality and refused to lose sleep over it.

Kaymer  is a perfectionist, and he wanted to give himself the best possible chance to win all four majors. He already had one in the bag. It surely couldn't be that difficult to make the adjustments required to master Augusta?

Within a couple of months, Kaymer's game had fallen off a cliff. He was part of the European Ryder Cup team that produced the MIracle at Medinah in 2013, and you don't need me to remind you that he was also the man who holed the winning putt. But even admitted that he should never have been on that team because, quite simply, he wasn't playing well enough.

In truth, he wasn't playing well enough to make the team at his own golf club. In trying to make those swing adjustments, Kaymer reached the stage where his ball striking, which had been so magnificent, had him down among the ranks of the also-rans. Fortunately, his short game remained sharp and his putting stroke as sure as it had ever been - the proof of the pudding came with that six-foot winning putt at Medinah, which never looked anywhere but the middle of the cup.

But try as he might, he couldn't make his new swing work. Inevitably, he began to slide down the rankings. Kaymer is a grafter, a man who enjoys hard work and he began to realise that he could achieve the results he wanted with only minor tweaks to the swing that had taken him to the top of the game, and last year he began to emerge from his slump.

First came a truly gutsy performance at the Players Championship at Sawgrass. He had been coasting but the wheels looked like they were going to come off until Kaymer dug deeper than he had ever done before and held on to claim the title described by many as golf's fifth major. He was back.

The icing on the cake came during the US Open at Pinehurst No2, one of the toughest tests known to man. From first to last, Kaymer was playing in a tournament all by himself. He reduced the fearsome course to 271 blows and won by a staggering eight shots in a manner that was reminiscent of Tiger Woods at his very, very best. Every iron shot found precisely the right part of the putting surfaces and while all around him were struggling, Kaymer was utterly serene, completely in control of his swing and of his game.

He put on a masterclass that included a wondrous  220-yard iron shot at the par-five fifth in the third round. From a poor lie he struck a magnificent shot with a gentle draw that finished five feet from the hole and set up an eagle.

"You have to believe. You have to play brave. If you hit a bad shot, you hit a bad shot. But that's the way you want to play golf or at least the way I want to play golf. You want to go for the flags," he said. "Just because you're leading by five or six shots doesn't mean you should play defensive.

"I don't want to talk about the swing changes any more, I just want to go out and play and let my golf do the talking for me."

His caddie, Craig Connelly, has been with Kaymer through thick and thin and knows what his man has been through. "To see all that hard work pay off is extremely satisfying. The idea was to put the past behind and move forward, but everything is a progression."

And maybe, just maybe, the next step in that progress will be the Claret Jug.

Image credit - US Open twitter

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